NELSON — If you love art, animals and Nelson School, then you otter get your checkbook out for a new fundraising effort.

The elementary school is raising money for the installation of otter statues that will ”play” along the boulders outside the building, according to a recent letter sent to the school community. Not only is the otter the Nelson School mascot, but the furry semiaquatic mammals can also be found in a marsh just across the street from the school, according to the Dec. 11 letter from otter-sculpture committee members Kelly French and Ed Schillemat.

“We’re pretty excited,” French, who is also a school board member, said in an interview Monday. She added that the effort has already garnered a lot of support from parents, former Nelson School students and town residents.

The project is not a part of the taxpayer-funded school budget, according to the letter.

As of Monday, $6,550 had been raised toward the $15,000 goal, French said. Many people who have mailed in donations have also included kind notes, a gesture that has been very encouraging, she added.

Artist Wendy Klemperer, a part-time Nelson resident, is on tap to create the statues. Klemperer, who has split time between her family home in Nelson and New York since the 1980s, said the rural New Hampshire town has a special place in her heart.

“It would mean a lot to me to have pieces permanently outside the school,” she said Monday. “I love being a part of the community.”

The three otters will be made mostly from salvaged and found metal, according to the letter. But Klemperer who has long been sculpting animals, from porcupines to horses and fish has never sculpted otters before and expects their sleek and playful form will present a new challenge.

“I tend to do much more rangier sort of animals that have a more distinctive form,” she said. “... The challenge will be to convey their athleticism and sleek movement.”

The school is aiming to install the otters in the fall with the hopes that students could visit Klemperer’s workshop as well, French said. Klemperer has also offered to do presentations for students about her sculpting process.

The collaboration will bolster the Nelson School’s science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) curriculum, French said.

“We do a lot of STEM things with kids,” she said, which includes a robotics program and a LEGO league. “But I think the ‘A’ part, the art, is a really important aspect,” she said.

Nelson School — which enrolls 75 students from Nelson and Sullivan in kindergarten through 5th grade — is also an environmentally conscious school, French said, and repurposing the materials for the statues aligns with the school’s values.

The idea for the project came about two years ago after the school completed an expansion that had required moving boulders that were ultimately lined up in a row between the school’s parking lot and the road, French said.

“We thought, ‘Hey wouldn’t it be cool if we had some kind of features to make those look even cooler?’ ” she said Monday.

Between other projects that were happening in town at the time and the COVID-19 pandemic, the otter project was put on hold. But when Klemperer reached out over the summer to check in about the statues, the school decided it was time to “get serious,” French said.

In addition to the Dec. 11 letter, the otter-sculpting committee also plans to include an insert the town’s quarterly newsletter in February. And at the advice of SAU 29 Chief Financial Officer Tim Ruehr, French is also looking into a grant that could help fund the project, she said.

In the meantime, Klemperer has some important research to do.

“I’m looking forward to going to some zoos or aquariums to watch [otters] this spring and get some ideas,” she said.

People interested in donating to the project can make checks payable to the Nelson School and write “Otter Sculpture Fund” as the memo. The school’s mailing address is Nelson School, 441 Granite Lake Road, Nelson, NH 03457. For questions on the project, contact Kelly French at or 603-847-3276.

Molly Bolan can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1436 or Follow her on Twitter @BolanMolly.